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Offseason Training: Plan to Peak for Tryouts

By Mike Fabbro on May 04, 2015

The question I’m most often asked as a trainer is: what should my son or daughter do in the offseason? It’s a great question and the answer is probably more obvious than you think. Yet most players and trainers get it wrong. 

The offseason has to be about development, not on scoring goals, winning games or playing on an All-Star spring team. You can’t develop and improve if you are injured, so everything I recommend is geared towards maximum injury prevention. 

You have to have a big-picture approach. In fitness, it’s called the holistic approach, where the whole is the sum of its parts. This includes on-ice and off-ice drills, tactics, nutrition, supplements, quality sleep, recovery and meditation, to name a few, and each of these also has its own sub-components. There are so many aspects of a game to work on for a young athlete, so where do you start?

It’s simple really; work hardest where you are weakest. Analyze, evaluate and measure your strengths and weaknesses, and then work on the weaknesses. This is easier said than done because it’s way more fun to work at what your good at, which is why so many young players get it wrong. Whatever you do, don’t do what your coaches had you doing all season long, over and over again. Instead, work on the areas they didn’t focus on. 

In spring, after the grind of the long season, players need to heal and let their bodies grow. The recovery process can easily take a month, so plan your spring practices, games and power skating accordingly. Be sure to integrate off-ice and any on-ice work to ensure they don’t work against each other. For example, I’ve seen players do heavy leg work in the gym one day then go to power skating a day or two later. It would be much better to stretch and do mobility work to increase range of motion in the legs and hips as that would benefit the power skating and have a multiplier effect on the results—it’s a one-plus-one equals three equation and it really works.  

For most of the players I work with, ok, all of them, they need flexibility and mobility training right after the season is over. Hockey is a beautiful sport but it’s hard on the body and can produce some significant muscle imbalances, especially in growing kids. The most common are stiff hips and shoulders and tight feet from being locked is a rigid “boot” all season. 

The competitive season ends at the end of March, so April is all about stretching, mobility, yoga and core work. I train the players like Cirque du Soleil athletes a minimum of twice a week and they love it! Most play school sports and play on a spring hockey team so there is plenty of activity for recovering and growing bodies. Remember, it’s the offseason!

In May, I introduce speed and agility work and use only body weight to develop strength. Again, we finish with stretching and meditation and again two to three times a week is recommended, depending on what other activities are going on. 

In June, I introduce strength training. This is where we pull sleds, do full range of motion reps with load and work on weak areas like the shoulders and neck that don’t get developed during the hockey season. Proper nutrition, rest and sleep are key during this phase of the training. For the younger players, I use resistance as a percentage of body weight. For the junior-aged players, everything is based on a battle with a 200-220 pound player, so the smaller players have to work harder and be stronger relative to their bodyweight. 

In July, working around holidays and summer play, we put it all together and do high-intensity interval training, strength and endurance work, followed by stretching and meditation. Every session is a complete work-out and simulates the intensity and duration of a game. 

August is all about recovery and fine-tuning. Most players participate in camps to get ready for tryouts and work on individual skill development. It’s important to allow for adequate recovery time the summer and to peak at just the right time. 

The key to avoid burn out is to work out less, but be more focused and more intense and take the time to relax and recover.

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By Mike Fabbro| May 04, 2015
Categories:  Performance

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